Tanzania’s opposition has added an international front to its fight and its leader Tundu Lissu is drawing inspiration from the struggle against apartheid by South Africa’s governing ANC — but it’s unlikely to find any sympathy there yet.
Former Tanzanian opposition presidential candidate Tundu Lissu has called for international support, including sanctions against his country’s government leaders and funders, after an election which the opposition has refused to recognise. It has blamed widespread fraud and irregularities on the landslide win for President John Magufuli and his governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi, and said it would also seek recourse from the International Criminal Court.
Lissu has likened his struggle to that of South Africa’s ANC leaders when they were in exile. Lissu returned to Belgium two weeks ago where he first fled in 2017 after he was shot multiple times in his car in an alleged assassination attempt. On Monday he addressed his first press conference aimed at the international media after his failed presidential bid.
About his fleeing the country again after being questioned by police, he said: “You cannot be suicidal, lose your life in the process and that is the end of the story.
“You have to protect your life in order to be able to continue the struggle, and that is precisely what I have done. And what I have done is what has been done literally by every freedom fighter, by every fighter for justice and democracy and rights.”
He mentioned the example of the ANC, which was a banned organisation for three decades.
“Its leadership, OR Tambo, Thabo Mbeki and thousands of others went into exile, spent decades in exile, while continuing the struggle, and that’s always been the case in this kind of situation, and therefore my being in exile does not preclude me from continuing the struggle from where I am. As long as I’m alive the struggle continues.”
He said lessons from the ANC’s history was important, because even though its leaders were imprisoned for life, hundreds were killed and many exiled, “the ANC remained in the hearts and minds of millions of South African people”. He warned: “The days, weeks and months ahead will be very difficult. They will be terrible because [Magufuli] has nothing to offer but violence and suppression, but we will survive him.”
The opposition was no longer confined to opposition parties like Chadema, of which he is a leader, and ACT Wazalendo, but it “has become generalised in the Tanzanian population amongst the people of Tanzania”, Lissu said.
He said obstacles for the opposition, such as deregistration, being prevented from entering parliament, imprisonment, threats of death and exile, would not destroy them because the opposition “is now in the breast of millions of men and women of Tanzania”. Opposition leaders say they have grown their support since the first multiparty elections were held 25 years ago, especially in the past five years of Magufuli’s presidency, but this wasn’t reflected in the election results.
We have to bear in mind that the ANC and CCM are buddies, and they used to be exchanging strategies, even supporting each other during elections.
Zitto Kabwe from ACT Wazalendo said in an interview that the opposition had written to President Cyril Ramaphosa as African Union chairperson and as “a very influential member of SADC” (the Southern African Development Community), but wasn’t expecting a favourable response to their objections against the elections. Ramaphosa congratulated Magufuli a few days after his election and commended “the people of Tanzania for upholding democratic principles and holding peaceful elections”. Ramaphosa’s acting spokesperson Tyrone Seale said he wasn’t aware of such a letter.
Kabwe said: “We have to bear in mind that the ANC and CCM are buddies, and they used to be exchanging strategies, even supporting each other during elections.” He said he wasn’t sure if this was the case during the recent polls.
“Historically the CCM and ANC have been extremely close, especially during the Mbeki era,” he said. This was why the opposition had not approached any individual member of the ANC for advice, but had drawn on the lessons from its struggle by looking at history.
“Perhaps the most likely person we would have approached would have been Mbeki because he has contacts here in Tanzania, and it would have been easy for him to reach out to the contacts.”
Kabwe said it was difficult to reach out to any of the current leaders in SADC, such as the chair, Mozambican president Filipe Nyusi, or Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who chairs the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, because of the solidarity between former liberation parties in the region.
Kabwe said the people of Tanzania played a big role in the liberation of a number of countries in the region, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia.
“We are trying to change the narrative of these liberation parties. When they think of Tanzania, they think of CCM and that it’s CCM that supported them, but it’s not true. It’s the people of Tanzania that supported them, and now the CCM is suppressing the people.”
He said the ANC should side “with the people of Tanzania for supporting them for democracy”, also because SADC protocols bound countries to support democracy and justice.
Kabwe quoted former Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah as saying the struggle was fought on many fronts.
“The international front is very, very important,” he said. “People like OR Tambo and the likes — there are people who remained in South Africa, the Winnies [Mandela] and the likes, and there are people who went to prison — but OR Tambo and Mbeki and others were in Lusaka and Dar es Salaam.”
He said those in exile played an important role in the fight for freedom and the ANC’s international campaign and push for sanctions had been successful. He said Tanzania’s opposition would not follow the route of an armed struggle but would rather organise in the same way the United Democratic Front did in South Africa.
“We should learn how to organise in a repressive situation and SA is a country we are looking to, and the ANC as a party.” He said although the ANC wasn’t perfect, it was better than the CCM because it had a measure of “internal democracy”.
This article was published by Daily Maverick.